Florence is one of the most exciting food cities in Italy, featuring a range of classic Tuscan cuisine that may be less familiar to many but equally satisfying to most. Since the nearby forests are famous for their abundance of truffles, many restaurants in Florence serve up dishes doused with shaved shrooms. While beans are the staple of the Tuscan table, Florence is known for its pecorino cheese and dishes like ribollita soup, wild boar ragu with pappardelle pasta, and bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine steak).
I visited last November after 18 years (my first visit was in 2004), and it was my husband’s first time. As a former art history major and major foodie, Florence is a dream destination, and my second visit did not disappoint.
While every day here should start with a cappuccino and end with gelato, dine like an Italian with an aperitivo and antipasti, followed by a primi, a second course, and continue with cheeses, vegetables, and a sweet ending.
Pro Tip: November in Florence might be a bit cold and sometimes rainy, but there are fewer crowds, better hotel rates, and a greater likelihood of getting reservations at your desired restaurant.
1. Antica Porchetteria Granieri 1916
It is impossible to resist ordering a pork sandwich at this takeout window right off the Palazzo Vecchio and nearby leather market as the juicy pork roast is herb-rubbed and slow-roasted for 8 hours, tantalizing everyone who walks by this small shop. Choose from five types of combination sandwiches for around €7 — stuffed with moist porchetta, slivers of fat, and crispy suckling pig skin, all inside a bread pocket with a sauce or balsamic glaze.
What To Order At Antica Porchetteria Granieri 1916
The Norcino sandwich is loaded with porchetta, sun-dried tomatoes, pecorino cheese, and green salsa verde sauce. It was so irresistible that I gobbled it down right on the street, salivating over the crusty ciabatta bread that must have been baked that day because it tasted so fresh.
Pro Tip: Go big and order the Il Magnifico, adding cured meat to the porchetta with black truffle sauce. Wash it down with a €3 house wine or Italian beer.
2. Antico Bottaio
Reunite at Antico Bottaio over a bottle of wine and linger away here for an afternoon. Dine next to locals and sit near the window as the world passes by on this small side street. Prices are reasonable and service is excellent.
What To Order At Antico Bottaio
- Drink: Savor a bottle of red wine such as Chianti Classico DOCG or Castello Ginori IGT.
- Starter: Known as the Antipasti in Italy, share the burrata on a bed of oranges with acacia honey and a sprig of mint, implanted like it is sprouting from an egg. The fresh creamy burrata with its outside mozzarella pouch and inside soft stringy curds and cream, tasted like no other burrata we have tasted in America, probably because it is made by hand in the Puglia region.
- Entrée: Since wild boar comes from Tuscany, the pappardelle with wild boar ragu is a must and with a price point of around €12, you may wonder how you can move here. Another great choice is the rigatoni Antico Bottaio style.
- Soup: Order what the locals love — ribollita (traditional vegetable soup with beans and cabbage) and pappa al pomodoro (bread soup with fresh tomatoes).
- Dessert: Try the Tiramisu or the crumbly cantuccini (dry biscuits with almonds and butter baked twice) served with sweet wine meant for dipping, the dry “Italian biscotti.”
Pro Tip: Dive into Bottaio’s truffle menu at reasonable prices every which way — truffle risotto, truffle carbonara, beef filet with truffle, ravioli filled with burrata and topped with truffle, raw beef slices with truffle, and more.
3. Trattoria Marione
Book ahead for this popular old-school trattoria because even the locals frequent this busy spot. Be prepared to share a table or be squeezed into an alcove. The menu at Trattoria Marione is handwritten and dishes change frequently. You can expect complimentary bread and limoncello post-dinner. Everything is fresh and at a reasonable price point. Most entrée portions are large enough to share.
What To Order At Trattoria Marione
- Drink: House red wine
- Starters: Assortment of Tuscan cured meats or tomato mozzarella
- Soup: Ribollita
- Pasta: Melanzane alla parmigiana (eggplant parmesan), pasta cacio e pepe, truffle pasta, wild boar ragu, bolognese, or lasagna.
Pro Tip: Embrace Italian culture with Florence’s well-known bistecca alla Fiorentina, obtained from the loin of young beef or “scottona” which is a young cow that has never mated. Always served rare, the portion may be big enough for 2 to 4 people. Add the well-loved roasted potatoes to your order. Sometimes if you arrive before opening time, you can get a seat.
4. Sabatini Firenze
For traditional Tuscan cuisine and a romantic dinner in a historic place that has been around since the 1970s where artists and aristocrats flocked, make reservations at the only Italian restaurant protected by the fine arts. Designed in 1955 by the architect Stigler, the furniture is from a deconsecrated church from the 1500s. Around 200 guests can fill all 4 rooms at Sabatini Firenze. We were escorted to the dimly lit back room in view of the floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing illuminated foliage.
Known for its Florentine steak preparation, the meat is lean and aged for up to a month, making it ultra flavorful. The extra-large T-bone steaks are cut from the sirloin and the meat is generally grilled rare. Sabatini offers a la carte menu items or two different four-course tasting menus designed to be shared by two people for a reasonable price (under $100).
What To Order At Sabatini Firenze
- Drink: Pair the succulent steak with a bold red Bolgheri wine from Caccia al Piano or choose from a wide selection from their wine cellar.
- Starters: The tasting menu begins with homemade cappellacci (stuffed pasta squares shaped like a little peasant hat) with meat sauce, porcini mushrooms, and peas. Try the fried egg with black truffle or toasted polenta with chicken liver pâté, porcini mushrooms, and beef sauce.
- Main: Order one of the many grilled types of meat or try a flambé experience freshly made tableside like spaghetti sabatini flambé (spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce, bacon, onion, egg yolk, and parmesan cheese) and “scottona” beef tenderloin with fresh truffle.
- Curious Eaters: Tuscan stuffed pigeon with pigeon liver; rabbit stuffed with pear and ricotta
- Dessert: Grandma’s custard pie sprinkled with nuts and powdered sugar
Pro Tip: Order one of the four-course tasting menus for two people: Florentine t-bone steak (€89) and Chianina beef (€99). We tried the grilled Chianina t-bone steak that arrived sliced and rare. Don’t ask for it to be cooked any other way. Chianina is an Italian breed of large white cattle raised mainly for beef and is one of the oldest cattle breeds in the world. The heaping juicy portion is plenty for two. Mini containers of salt and olive oil accompany the shared steak along with roasted potatoes.
5. San Paolino
Step off the winding cobblestone streets into the lobby of the 25hours Hotel Florence Piazza San Paolino where the central hub of the hotel is the restaurant San Paolino, anchored by a soaring light-filled ceiling illuminating a make-believe forest of grand potted plants (some real, some faux) with a fireplace and adjacent courtyard garden.
Come for lunch or dinner (or an exceptional buffet breakfast with local products if staying at the hotel) to dine on traditional Tuscan dishes and modern Italian cuisine using fresh local ingredients. Some of the signature dishes come from the private recipes of designer Paola Navone.
Filled with kitschy and intriguing furniture and surprising décor, San Paolino’s wild personality makes it a fun place to socialize in the indoor/outdoor terrace lounge with kitschy red heart-shaped chairs, a red glowing Negroni cocktail bar (since the aperitif was invented in Florence), and an alimentary bakery café with handmade cakes and cookies, pizza, paninos, cold cuts, and all the best Italian products to take home plus a bevy of funny plush stuffed-animal-like sausages and salamis hanging from the ceiling.
What To Order At San Paolino
- Starters: Purple potato gnocchi on a pecorino cheese fondue with artichoke ragu, marinated anchovies, chicken liver terrine served with brioche, and grated hazelnuts.
- Main Course: Classic Florentine steak, agnolotti pasta filled with braised beef
- Dessert: Tiramisu
Pro Tip: To feed 4 people or more (€58 per person), order LA Tavolata to share three starters, one first course, a grilled meat selection served with sides, and a traditional dessert sampling.
6. Mercato Centrale
Since the 1800s, the Mercato Centrale food market has been brimming with colorful stalls all run by artisans. Take home cheeses, wine, salumi, and truffle products from Luciano Savini. You could also feast on ready-made bites and create your own food tour.
Find And Eat: The lampredotto from the Bambi Family is considered the most Florentine of Tuscan dishes, as the tripe sandwich with a special recipe has been passed down for generations. The bread can be dipped in cooking broth or enjoyed alone. Add a spicy green sauce for an extra kick. For 10 flavors of gelato with no artificial flavors, try Cristian Beduschi’s “The Chocolate and Ice Cream.”
Pro Tip: Do like the locals and come here in the evening to hang out and socialize over an aperitivo.
Bonus: Venture To Tuscany
Looking to strengthen your culinary prowess? Head to Tuscany — just an hour’s drive away — to dine at Osteria del Sole in Capannoli, close to the truffle forests. Indulge in a selection of pecorino cheeses, tartare of beef filet doused in parmesan cream and fresh truffle, and tagliolini with black truffle. Accentuate your meal with a bottle of vino from their stellar wine list. Nearby, book a truffle hunting experience at Savini Tartufi.
For more information on traveling to Florence, Italy, check out these articles: